I grew up in the country. My family always had a vegetable garden. For us, gardening meant a large plot, plowed and raked, then planted with long, widely-space rows of vegetables. It also meant weeding and hoeing, weeding and hoeing. Lots and lots of weeding and hoeing.
Gardening was a chore.
When my ex-wife and I bought our first home, we both wanted a vegetable garden, but we didn't want the drudgery that came with it. Besides, we didn't have a big space in the country — we had an average city lot. Fortunately, we discovered Mel Bartholomew's Square-Foot Gardening.
Bartholomew's method allowed us to enjoy reasonable crop production in a small space. With his technique, almost any homeowner can grow her own food.
How Square-Foot Gardening Works
The square-foot gardening concept is simple: Build a raised bed. Divide the space into sections of one square-foot each. Lastly, plant vegetables (and/or flowers) in just the amount of space they need.
The advantages of this system include reduced workload, less watering, easy weeding (and not much of it), and easy access to your crops. This is a great way to learn to grow some of your own food.
Back in the 1990s, Kris and I had raised beds similar to these (from Flickr user johnyaya).
We built our square-foot garden one Saturday in mid-April. I spent the morning constructing three raised beds out of two-by-sixes. Each bed was twelve feet long, four feet wide, and twelve inches tall. At the time, I most certainly was not a handyman, yet I was able to build these in just a few hours. It was fun.
Digging was less fun.
I spent the afternoon double-digging three patches in our lawn. We maneuvered the frames into place, leveled them, and then filled them with rich soil (purchased from a nearby nursery-supply center). Finally, we created a grid over each bed using tacks and twine. When we were finished, our raised beds looked like orderly grids.